painting of entire subway cars “in graphic multicolour designs still based around a single name suchas TOMCAT or KOOK” (Cresswel
l, 1991:3). Many attempts to eradicate the subcultural practiceresolutely failed (explored later) and by 28
March 1973, the New York Times once again publishedfigures stating that 63% of subway cars, 46% of buses, and 50% of public housing projects had beenmarked (Cresswell, 1991:3). Major cultural and geographic expansion took place with the onset of further popular culture as well as punk, metal and hip-hop movements of the 1980s, aided largely byMTV and other news bodies, and causing the expansion of the subculture largely by means of theNew York subways. The marking of mobile public space allowed subcultural members
to make a
claim to the world outside the ghetto” (Ley and Cybriwsky, 1974).
Films such as „Wild Style‟ and„Beat Street‟
were major disseminators, and indeed Elfein (1998) believes these productions were
central to the subculture‟s introduction to German streetscapes.
As will be acknowledged later in thispaper, the contribution of globalisation has permitted the presence of graffiti not only throughoutcities in the United States, but also Central and South America as well as Europe, New Zealand,Australia and Japan (Alonso, 1998; Chalfant and Prigoff, 1987). The subculture has quite literallygraced every country on the world map.
Identity, Belonging, Expression
“Our human landscape is our unwitting autobiography, reflecting our taste, our values, our aspirations, and evenour fears in intangible form” (Lewis, 1979:12
- quoted in Mitchell, 2000).
Youth cultures are those which assume a state, like their actors, that is somewhat
in that thelives of these adolescent
beings are “momentarily negated, suspended or abrogated
, and the future hasnot yet begun, an instant of pure potentiality when everything, as it were, trembl
es in the balance”
(Turner, 1982: 44). As such, the spaces available for occupation are scarce and so the street becomesthat onto which identity can be ascribed and belonging sensed through the act of writing. Yet, adultreclamation lingers as a constant threat (Matthews
, 2000). Graffiti serves as a subculture topermit the establishment and expression of identity and belonging for displaced youth. As West 7proclaims:
“Graffiti art was a way to beat your own chest in the urban jungle and let the
world know that you were a part of
it and not just another face in the crowd. That‟s why it was practiced initially by individuals in their early to pre
teens. We had identities to prove”
(West, 2007- quoted in Carrington, 2009:417).
Mac Donald (2001) effectively documents how graffiti, through the development of alternative identities (in the form of tag names), permits the construction of a virtual self in theexploration of identity. Indeed Erikson (1968:130
) holds that “in a jungle of human existence
there isno feeling of being al
ive without a sense of identity”
(Othen-Price, 2006), particularly for adolescents
who are experiencing a state of „Temporary Outsidership‟ (Briggs, 2002).
Henri Lefebvre (2003:19) reveals that the urban arena is also a space for communication, aplace to talk,
just as it is the medium for the sharing of words and signs, “a place where speech can become „savage‟ and, by escaping rule
s and institutions, inscribe itself on walls
. Interestingly, thesubculture, when not aimed to transmit a message to the public outside the graffiti twilight zone, usesa unique subcultural language that is embedded with spelling misrepresentations,
special „lexion‟ of text and numerical characters that make it legible only to the „
cultural world. Thisaspect of internal peer communication reflects the assertion by Jenkin
(2006) that the culture isparticipatory, with low entry restrictions to its values of artistic expression, mentorship and socialcohesion. It is by this nature that one finds with relative ease the aspect that deems this community